I finally found a copy of this article again, it had vanished from its original location by the time I was ready to write about it.
A recent Reuters article (mirrored on sott.net) reports on a rather bold move by Starbucks, the well-known coffee shop chain once lauded and now decried by many.
In essence, these new coffee shops are an attempt to masquerade as a local, independent, non-chain coffee shop on a surface level. The only clue of what they really are may be told by an “inspired by Starbucks” on the Web site and assumably on the on-location signage. Were it not a PR disaster just waiting to happen to not disclose this, were the suits at Starbucks of the mindset that they thought they could get away with it, they probably would omit even this subtle, stealth, submarine clue.
It does make a very strong statement when a large chain feels it cannot stake its claim with its existing brand in its core market. It does seem out of character for Starbucks to do impressions of an independent coffee shop. It is almost as if Starbucks tacitly admits the familiar green mermaid logo is working against it rather than for it in certain cases.
Some of you, particularly my regular readers, may be asking the question already, so I’ll go ahead and answer it: no, I really don’t have an axe to grind with Starbucks the way I do with some other large companies. However, there is no denying their reputation as a brand has suffered greatly in recent years. The proliferation of local coffee shops here in Houston, such as Inversion Coffee, Dirk’s Coffee (formerly Diedrich Coffee before the company apparently ceased its retail operations), Brasil, and Catalina Coffee, serves as ample evidence of a new trend in that arena.
If Starbucks can’t win with its “inspired by Starbucks” stores in its home arena of Seattle, Washington, I fail to see how they will fare any better in other arenas across the country. It’s a very creative deception, but a deception nonetheless, and will be remembered for months if not years to come by many of Starbucks’ customers and potential customers.